Medicare and Medicaid are two very distinctly different programs, although it’s not uncommon to hear a client use the terms interchangeably.
Generally, Medicare acts like traditional health insurance, though it has several different parts, and is used to pay for things like hospital visits, doctor’s bills, x-rays, etc. Medicare Part A covers hospital insurance, Part B covers medical insurance, and Part D covers prescriptions. Virtually everyone who is over age 65 is eligible for Medicare Part A, and almost all of those people have voluntarily enrolled in Medicare Part B.
Eligibility for Medicaid on the other hand, is generally based on a person’s income. If a person has limited income and/or financial resources, Medicaid covers a broader spectrum of services than Medicare does and can provide payment for a number of services that Medicare either doesn’t cover, or discontinues coverage after a period of time. One of the most common examples is for long term care or nursing home care.
You don’t have to be eligible for Medicare to be eligible for Medicaid, or vice versa, but it is important to know the differences and how either or both of these programs can be used.